Shea Stadium was packed for Game Two of the 2006 National League Division Series. The Mets had won the first game behind two “rookies.” John Maine was in his first season with the Mets. He stepped up and pitched 4 1/3 solid innings in the Mets victory. The other “rookie” was Carlos Delgado. The 34-year old finally played in a postseason game. He had four hits in the game, including a home run that ignited the Mets offense. “I hope it gets better,” Delgado said afterwards.1
In the second game, the tables were reversed as the Dodgers sent rookie pitcher Hong-Chih Kuo to the mound as their starter. Kuo entered the game with just one major league victory under his belt, a 5-0 win against the Mets on September 8. Kuo’s path to the majors was interrupted by injuries and Tommy John surgery. After he returned from surgery, the Dodgers tried to use him a reliever. When that didn’t work, they decided to turn him back into a starter. Dodger manager Grady Little expressed confidence in Kuo: He’s not scared of anyone. He’s got good stuff, he challenges the hitters, he works fast. That’s all we’re looking for.”2
Veteran Tom Glavine started for the Mets. He was no stranger to the postseason. Glavine had pitched in 11 postseasons during his tenure with the Braves but this was his first postseason appearance since joining the Mets in 2003. When he was asked what advice he would give any of his Mets teammates who were making their first appearance in the postseason, he said that “[he would] try and encourage [the] guys to relax. We all tend to get in this atmosphere early on and we start trying too hard and start trying to do things that we’re not capable of doing and we end up getting ourselves in trouble. It’s the same game. We all have to do the same things to be successful. We tend to put too much pressure on ourselves when we get in this atmosphere.”3
Glavine looked sharp from the first pitch. Over the first three innings, he allowed just one base runner when he walked Russell Martin in the second. Kuo also pitched well in the opening innings but the Mets were getting better at-bats against him in this outing. Before the game Mets manager Willie Randolph said the Mets needed to be more patient against Kuo and they seemed to be doing this. They forced him to throw 27 pitches in the second inning and another 24 in the third.
The Mets scored first in the bottom of the third. Endy Chavez led off with a bunt down the first base line that Kuo could not handle. Glavine came to bat and also bunted. Kuo became distracted with Chavez at first and eventually threw a wild pitch that allowed Chavez to move to second. Glavine then swung away and hit a weak ground ball right in front of home plate. The only play was to first and Chavez ended up on third. Jose Reyes fouled off several pitches before hitting a ground ball up the middle. The only play was to first base. Chavez scored and the Mets led 1-0.
In the fourth, Cliff Floyd hit a long fly ball that had Mets fans on their feet anticipating his second home run of the series. But the wind blew it back into play for an out. The Mets added to their lead in the fifth. Kuo walked leadoff batter Jose Valentin and then gave up a single to Chavez. Glavine hit a sacrifice bunt down the third base line that advanced both runners. Little ordered Kuo to walk Reyes in order to set up the double play and then called in Brett Tomko from the bullpen. Paul Lo Duca hit the first pitch to left field for a sacrifice fly and the Mets were up 2-0.
Glavine continued to pitch well. He gave up his first hit, an infield single to Nomar Garciaparra in the fourth but the Dodgers could not capitalize on the opportunity. Through six innings, he gave up just four hits while striking out two batters. He also contributed at the plate, helping to move runners into scoring position in order to build the Mets lead.
The Dodgers lost Garciaparra in the sixth inning. The All-Star had struggled to overcome a leg injury late in the season. After hitting a ground ball in the sixth, he didn’t even run out the ball. Little removed him from the game and was only able to use him as a pinch hitter for the remainder of the series.
The Mets added two more runs in the bottom of the sixth. David Wright and Floyd hit consecutive singles. Valentin then laid down a sacrifice bunt. Tomko fielded the ball but threw wide to first base. With bases loaded, Little replaced Tomko with Mark Hendrickson. Chavez hit a ground ball back to the mound that got Wright out at home on the force play. Julio Franco now pinch hit for Glavine. He hit a ground ball to the shortstop. The only play was to second and Floyd scored. Reyes then hit a single up the middle, scoring another run. When the inning ended, the Mets were up 4-0.
Pedro Feliciano pitched a scoreless seventh for the Mets and was replaced by Aaron Heilman in the eighth. After Wilson Betemit fouled off the first five pitches from Heilman, he hit the sixth pitch over the right field wall for a solo home run. The Dodgers finally scored and the Mets lead was 4-1.
Randolph brought in closer Billy Wagner to pitch the ninth. Wagner earned a save the previous night and was looking to earn his second one of the series. Wagner got all three batters to ground out. As the Mets gathered on the infield to congratulate each other, Bachman Turner Overdrive’s “Takin’ Care of Business” played over the speakers. Most of the 57,000 Mets fans were on their feet and shouting out the lyrics.
Glavine won his 14th postseason game. When he signed with the Mets, he felt like they would be able to surpass the Braves in the division and make the postseason. “[I]n my heart of hearts it was something I knew was gonna happen, but you know, the wait, I don’t know, you’re never quite sure how long it’s gonna take.”4 Tonight he led the Mets to their second postseason victory since their appearance in the 2000 World Series.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author also used the Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org websites for box score, player, team, and season pages, pitching and batting game logs, and other pertinent material.
1 Kevin Kernan, “Great First Impression — Delgado’s Debut Filled with Power,” New York Post, October 5, 2006.
2 Brian Lewis, “Kuo Wants to Perform Like Wang,” New York Post, October 5, 2006.
3 “NL Division Series: Dodgers v. Mets,” ASAP Sports.com, October 4, 2006.
4 Brian Costello, “A Matter of Tom: Glavine Finally Reaches Playoffs with Mets, “ New York Post, October 5, 2006